Sunday, May 31, 2015

COSCBWI Meeting May 2015

This month's Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI meeting featured a special visit from YA author Susan Bradley.  Susan was the former Regional Advisor for our chapter, and it's always such a treat when she comes to speak at a meeting!  She stepped down from the position in order to pursue her Master of Fine Arts in Writing.  Now that she's graduated from her program, we jumped at the chance to have her come in and discuss her MFA experience.

Making the decision to go back to school is no easy task.  It's a decision that affects your time, family, and wallet.  For Susan, a Part-Time Program worked best for her busy lifestyle, but there are Full-Time and Online-Only school options as well.  With a Part-Time Program, students can still work as much as they need to while getting their degree.  The low-residency component--usually five, seven, or ten days twice a year--allows students to get important face-to-face interactions with instructors and peers, but doesn't keep them away from their families and day-jobs for too long. 

Susan explained that a Master of Fine Arts is a terminal degree, so there is no higher degree than the one you obtain at the end of your program.  There are many jobs one can pursue with a Master of Fine Arts in Writing including teaching at the college level, editing, business/technical writing, creative writing, and agenting.  A new career isn't the only reason to go back to school, though.  MFA programs allow students to make contacts in the publishing world, create a writer's network, obtain mentoring, and improve their craft. 

Susan discussed that it's very important to know what you're getting into before jumping into a Master of Fine Arts program.  In addition to lots and lots (and lots) of reading, Susan was also required to critique her classmates' work, complete many writing assignments, teach a class, participate in online forums and panels, attend residencies, and write and defend her thesis.  MFA programs require a big time and energy commitment.  If you're thinking of going back to school, she recommended you involve your family in the decision making process--especially if you plan on keeping your day-job--and make sure they are 100% supportive.

With all the options that are available, how do you choose the program that's best for you?  Susan brought up a lot of great questions that every potential student should consider including:

-What is the format?  (Full-Time, Part-Time, or Online?)
-Is the program accredited?
-What type of writing does the program focus on, and does it match your own career goals?
-What are the credentials of the instructors?
-What is the reputation of the program?
-What is the cost?  Does it fit your budget, or is financial aid available?
-Are students going on to get published once they graduate?  (There should be an online publication list.)

She also gave us a list of institutions with renowned MFA programs including:

-Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa
-Vermont College of Fine Arts
-Antioch University-Los Angeles
-Ohio State University
-Seton Hill University
-Hamline University
-Full Sail Online

Susan chose Seton Hill to pursue her Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction.  The Part-Time format fit her whirlwind, single-mom lifestyle, she was impressed by the school's reputation and faculty, and the program focused on her desired genre of writing.  She said she couldn't be happier with her experience, from the classes she took to the close friends she made.  (And with two published books now under her belt--Unraveled and Uncovered--her story is clearly one of success!)  Susan ended the meeting by encouraging us all to consider pursuing continuing education, and to never EVER give up on our publishing dreams!

If you want to learn more about Susan and her books, be sure to check out her website at  A big thank you to Susan for coming in and telling us all about her MFA experience!

You can find out more about Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI and upcoming events by visiting  I hope to see you at the June meeting!  
Note: Photo is from Susan Bradley's website,

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

School Visit!

This past week, I got to make a special visit to my sister's third grade classroom.  She's a teacher in a nearby school district and always encourages her kids to be reading maniacs. 

Although I'm not published yet, I love taking this yearly opportunity to speak to a room full of kids.  I've always been the sort of person who runs away from the spotlight, so public speaking has never been my forte.  Fortunately, I'm starting to get used to twenty pairs of eyes staring straight at me as I ramble on aimlessly and try not to look like a dweeb while my sister snaps photos of me pointing at books.  (Oh darn, those pictures are all on her camera.  Guess I can't post them here!)

Third graders really are such a fun age group!  I brought a variety of books from the Ohioana Library to talk about Ohio authors and illustrators (all of whom they were familiar with--awesome work, teachers!) and we read First Dog.  The kids loved that it was written and illustrated by all Ohioans--J. Patrick Lewis, Beth Zappitello, and Tim Bowers--and that it featured a cute, fluffy dog.  (Maybe more kids would like math if it involved cuddly canines?)

After the story, I shared some of my own work and talked a little bit about how I'm trying to become published.  I showed them some art, talked about the revision process, and tried not to make more doofy faces as my sister continued snapping photos.  I also made a noble effort not to burst out laughing at the hilarious things the kids said.  (Me: Does anyone have any unusual pets at home?  Kid: We have lots of gnats in our house!)  

Then we did a bookmark craft together from the Ohioana Book Festival, and I explained how the drawings were done by aspiring SCBWI illustrators just like me.  They had an absolute blast coloring the bookmarks and drawing some of their own!  To help keep the kids quiet as they waited in line for me to tie ribbons on top, I had them each think of their favorite book.  The winning series by far were Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the boys and Puppy Place for the girls.  (Score another win for the cute, fluffy dogs!)  The kids were so creative and enthusiastic, and many even asked if they could make extra bookmarks to give to family members.  (D'awwwww!) 

The highlight of the day was when two little girls told me they want to be writers and illustrators when they grow up.  I very much hope their parents and teachers encourage them to follow that dream.  :)

The day ended with smiling faces, "Do you have to go already?" whining, and a few sticky-fingered hugs.  I can't wait to visit again next year!